Heaven for Helen
Helen says heaven, for her, would be complete immersion in physical process, without self-consciousness— to be the respiration of the grass, or ionized agitation just above the break of a wave, traffic in a sunflower's thousand golden rooms. Images of exchange, and of untrammeled nature. But if we're to become part of it all, won't our paradise also involve participation in being, say, diesel fuel, the impatience of trucks on August pavement, weird glow of service areas along the interstate at night? We'll be shiny pink egg cartons, and the thick treads of burst tires along the highways in Pennsylvania: a hell we've made to accompany the given: we will join our tiresome productions, things that want to be useless forever. But that's me talking. Helen would take the greatest pleasure in being a scrap of paper, if that's what there were to experience. Perhaps that's why she's a painter, finally: to practice disappearing into her scrupulous attention, an exacting rehearsal for the larger world of things it won't be easy to love. Helen I think will master it, though I may not. She has practiced a long time learning to see I have devoted myself to affirmation, when I should have kept my eyes on the ground.
Copyright © 2005 by Mark Doty. From School of the Arts. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.